By Rebecca Amber Andrelucci
Severe spankings, missed suppers, being locked in a room for hours on end; these are the types of cruel punishments that were incorporated into children’s literature since the 18th century in order to help mold the young generation into becoming polite and useful members of society. During that period, children were perceived as young adults and were very well expected to act like it. Back then, it was normal to want to strip your child of their juvenile ignorance and behavior in order to convert them into suitable member of society as quickly as possible. In order to accomplish this, the English cleverly used children’s literature as a means to teach their youth valuable life lessons as well as the punishments that accompany the failure of learning those lessons. Those stories acted as their moral compasses, guiding them through their path to the pursuit of adulthood. Most of the child heroes incorporated into this literature were either given much moral responsibility and maturity, or were scorned for their lack of it. To this aim, the writers use conduct books both as models to emulate and to reject specific behaviour. Although this type of children’s literature was greatly praised and encouraged amongst the English Victorians, Lewis Carroll did not produce such a piece when writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In his novel, Carroll wasn’t trying to portray a specific moral lesson to his young readers, but instead questions the morals and principals of the society he lives in. With every new interaction Alice stumbles upon in Wonderland, we observe that there is a new aspect of her society being put into question. This is the most potently seen through her relationships with the White Rabbit, the Cheshire cat as well as the playing cards and the queen. It is by analysing each one of these relationships that we shall discover how they have not only brought out her true colors, but have altered her perception on society as well.
In this novel, Alice’s relationship with the white rabbit could be considered the most important one, due to the fact that it is through him that this tale came to be. Without the white rabbit, the young girl would have never followed him into the rabbit hole, thus never having her wonderful adventure in wonderland which both exposed her true colors and taught her many things about the world she lives in. During the 19th century, philosophy was all the rage. One of the major philosophical concepts that we may assume greatly inspired Carroll was that of our curious nature1. As humans, we are inclined to both question and wonder, especially when seeing something for the first time. This is exactly the scenario that was portrayed in Carroll’s novel through Alice’s spotting of the white rabbit. When Alice first saw the rabbit, who was looking down at his pocket watch, she was absolutely mesmerised by his peculiarity. She had never before seen a rabbit dressed as a gentlemen, let alone one that could talk! And so, its distinctiveness pushed her to follow him all the way down into the rabbit hole. This shows us the use of this popular philosophical theory in his book through the character of Alice. Overcome with curiosity, the heroine decided to follow the rabbit without thinking twice. “In another moment, down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”2 The white rabbit, in his scenario, represents something that she has never before seen; “one could use that description when talking about a new idea, or concept that is foreign to them”3. This Quote by Kyle M shows us that in life, we often come across such things that propel us into a state of curiosity and thirst for the truth. Just like a new idea or concept that someone might stumble upon, the rabbit evoked a feeling in Alice which made things seem ‘curiouser